The North Face Founder at Fuckup Nights: Hap Klopp

Hap Klopp is the founder of The North Face, where he served as President and CEO for over 20 years. He’s also the author of: “Conquering The North Face, an Adventure in Leadership”, more recently he started to question why it’s so difficult to find book which discuss failure experiences in business. Since he’s convinced that one can learn more from failure than success, Hap released “Almost:12 electric months chasing a Silicon Valley dream.”

Some time ago, Hap joined the leadership team of a high-tech clothing company and that’s where the Fuckup Nights story begins. He takes to our virtual stage to tell his experience in an organization where not everyone sat at the table was able to decide what the company stood for.

Our after-party with Hap was a chilled conversation that navigated through different topics: why people don’t read the classics-“7-habits-for”-or-“5-ways-to”-books anymore; the myth of the start-up garages; and why we should share more failure stories.

Keep scrolling to get to know this wise and kind-hearted entrepreneur.


The story: You can’t have two cultures in an entrepreneurial business

“We had a conflict in the company, basically the difference was between “You make what you can sell” or “You sell what you can make”. The engineers never wanted to make two of the same thing, but the sales people and marketing people all wanted to sell millions of one type of unit. 

The guy running the company was basically quite different from me, he brought me in, but he and I had different backgrounds. The company was divided along with sales and engineering, those two opposite poles. 

The guy that ran the company never worried about budgets. In fact, he’d spend your money every year because that’s how you get more money the next year. He only believed in top-down management telling people what to do. He had a total disdain for business and for civilians, and here I was a scrappy entrepreneur, basically like a brand builder. We couldn’t have been more different.

The reason we failed is that you can’t have two cultures in business, particularly not in an entrepreneurial business. Everybody has to sit down and decide what is it that we stand for. We never reconciled the difference between the engineering mentality and sales and marketing.”

Check out the full story in the video above.

“The company was divided along sales and engineering, those two opposite poles.”

After the fuck up: The myth of the start-up garages

Go into a bookstore and look on the shelves, stacks and stacks of success stories out there. Look for ones about failure and they aren’t there.

I thought it was something that was needed in the marketplace because I don’t think that people are getting a true view when I talk about the myth of overnight success. If you ask what happens in Silicon Valley, 90% of the people in the world will say startups started in garages and grown from 10 million dollars to 100 million dollars in a year, but statistics are totally against that. The probability of success is very low, most companies fail in their first year and people should know that.


Hap is involved in several educational and health businesses,he’s also a Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Hult University and gives lectures at various graduate business schools including Stanford, University of California, Carnegie Mellon, and University of San Francisco.






Fuckup Nights es un movimiento global presente en más de 300 ciudades. Todos los meses organizamos eventos en todo el mundo donde oradores comparten las historias detrás de sus cagadas profesionales, utilizando el fracaso para fomentar conversaciones difíciles, vulnerables y significativas. Las historias de negocios fallidos, relaciones comerciales que terminaron amargas, los productos que tuvieron que ser retirados del mercado. Contamos todas esas historias.